Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Madam Miaow on the radio: China in the news

Pic: Madam Miaow takes instructions from her evil interlocutor

Who'd have thought I'd turn out to be the Mystic Meg of the China blogs when I wrote my China Panic piece for New Internationalist, warning of the imminent demonisation of this year's Olympics host? Prescient or what?!

Leaping in where angels fear to tread, I'm appearing on BBC Five Live tomorrow morning (Wednesday 9th April) to try and even up the score and add some balance — if not colour — to the current China-bashing hate-fest.

It's on the Victoria Derbyshire programme (09:00 to 12:00), scheduled for a 20 minute spot beginning 10:05. You can listen to it live and for seven days after broadcast.

The other poor saps, I mean honoured guests, include a couple of ex-pats and a Chinese student studying in London. The challenge for me is to counter the myths sprung up around Tibet without being heard as excusing the excesses of the Chinese government. Difficult when everyone's hard-wired to hear exactly that. Tis a fine line I walk tomorrow.

Note to self: do not say, "The Dalai Lama. What a cunt." At least not before the watershed.

All together, now. "Into the valley ..."


Louisefeminista said...

"do not say, The Dalai Lama. What a cunt."

Oh go on....You know you want to.
Sock it to 'em, comrade.

patrick said...

LOL!!!!!!!!! I have never heard the Jelly Lama called one of those before. Your not one of these are you (走狗)?
Peace. Pad

DAVE BONES said...

I just read about this on that Socialist Unity thing. I can't believe it. I tried to click on the radio link but didn't get the right show. email us an mp3 if you can.

I've got an ex who is rabid on the free Tibet campaign. I'm saying nothing. Maybe you are doing for China what I used to do for Jihadis.

ModernityBlog said...

you are part way there!

what BBC double talk "as excusing the excesses of the Chinese government."

so when China invades a country it is an excess? a bit bad but not really calamitous?

when it annexes the country, that too is excessive? or just a bad hair day?

and when it moves in a new ruler: the party secretary and a military detachment to secure his rule, that's just an excess?

your mastery of BBC understatement is unmatched

here's the problem for socialists or any genuinely concerned anti-imperialists

to invade a neighbouring country, annex it, install a local dictator and exploit the country's resources is normally termed imperialism, in any other circumstance

except when China does it, eh?

those are the facts on the ground

and if tomorrow the Dalai Lama ceases to exist or just dies in exile that will not change the material circumstances of the Tibetans' poor existence

they will continue to revolt as long as there is imposed Chinese rule of their country

and socialists are left with a problem either:

to excuse the brutality of the Chinese ruling classes (the Dalai Lama was a fascist, they got rid of feudalism, etc)

or do they support the ordinary people in Tibet

that's the choice, refried sub-Stalinist excuses won't work

and when you applied those same excuses "they got rid of feudalism", etc to other circumstances such as the British conquest of parts of Africa they sound very hollow and inconsistent

crying "fascist, CIA, etc" is a mere deflection and an unworthy argument

Madam Miaow said...

This is exactly the problem, Mod. As soon as you try to puncture the myths we've been sold around the Dalai Lama and Tibet, you get labelled (libelled?) as a cheerleader for Chinese oppression.

That's a highly effective way of closing down any meaningful debate.

I think we need to open up that debate and look at where we are now. That way we can decide better where we're going.

As it is, in supporting the rioters and calling for complete independence from China, you're even more of a Tibetan nationalist than Dolly himself is these days.

Patrick, my sincere apologies to cunts everywhere.

Charlie Pottins said...

It is a bit rich for us citizens of country which invaded
half the world at one time or another, including Tibet, and
still has forces in so many places, to start lecturing the Chinese on "imperialism".
If the Chinese invasion put an end to feudalism in Tibet that is not an "excuse" it is a damn good reason for
considering it a good thing. If the
Chinese regime shows disregard for Tibetan rights and culture that is something to oppose but does not in itself constitute
imperialism (for the latter we'd have to know something about
the economic relations, does Beijing take out more wealth than it has put in, for instance?).
I don't know what kind of movement there is in Tibet for national liberation, but the
Dalai Lama hardly strikes me as
representing democracy or progress.
By the way, where I come from we were
told not to use "cunt" as a term of abuse because a cunt is useful. Well, perhaps the Dalai Lama is too, but to whom?
And to the friend who mentioned "jihadis" (funny how crusaders never gets used here as a term of abuse), do you think militant Buddhism in power would be any less awful than the Ayatollahs?
I don't want to judge the movement in Tibet till I know more about it, but I know the British media well enough to smell a rat when it
approves of demonstrators
trying to disrupt a
sporting event on ceremony. I did not support the demonstrations against Israel playing at Wembley, though I could understand the feeling behind them
as Britain had refused visas for a Palestinian under-19 team invited here).
But the demonstration was entirely peaceful, and all they did was pass out leaflets.
Not a mention. And if they had been other than peaceful
do you think the media would have sympathised?
I am glad Anna got a chance to put her views (and very well by the way) and listeners got a chance to hear some
arguments that we would never get otherwise. I've told
the Beeb we want more!

ModernityBlog said...

"As it is, in supporting the rioters and calling for complete independence from China, you're even more of a Tibetan nationalist than Dolly himself is these days."

as for supporting the rioters, socialists have often done that, against an oppressive state and as Jim Jay has so ably argued

:"Well, firstly Hans became victims of attack after the repression began - in other words when the Chinese government cut off access to passive resistance those with nothing turned on the nearest identifiable targets weak enough to harm - those people that were associated with the occupation of Tibet in the minds of many native Tibetans due to long term demographic manipulation by the Chinese state. Now, these attacks are quite wrong, but they stem from a real grievance and we need to understand where any anti-Hans racism may come from."


here is a problem, years back Marxists used to understand that ideology, resentment, oppression flowed from the MATERIAL circumstances of the working-classes and the oppressed but now in terms of Tibet we are meant to turn that on its head?

instead the material conditions of the Tibetans are ignored, the grievances of Tibetans in Tibet brushed aside, and any number of fallacious arguments are put up to justify this

1. The Dalai Lama is a fascist, pro-slaver etc when bleeding obviously he isn't

2. Dalai Lama will reintroduce feudalism, when that obviously wouldn't happen as it would be against the interests of existing Tibetans, and if it did happen it would be the first historical reintroduction of feudalism in the past 200 years, all a bit unlikely

and when the scare stories don't work, it's back to the fallacious notion of independence and how that will be detrimental for China (note, how the Tibetans are a secondary concern), etc

It would be perfectly possible for the Tibetans to have some form of devolved government of their own, and still have links to China, if they wanted to.

But at the moment it is the dictatorship of one man in Lhasa, the Party secretary.

And unless socialists believe that dictatorships are beneficial (I don't think they are not, but this issue is bringing out some strange manifestations in otherwise sensible people) then socialists should be against the Party dictatorship in Tibet as well. It is part of the problem.

Bringing out all these anti-Tibetan arguments is very reminiscent of how the Stalinists in 1956 (and to a lesser extent 1968 Czechoslovakia) fought off criticism of their brutal rule in Eastern Europe: call your opponent a fascist, say that he's in the pay of the CIA, etc

It is very poor argumentation and dodgy reasoning.

Here's the way to think of it:

If you wouldn't put up with such conduct from anotherState, be it the UK, USA, Germany or France, etc then why oh, oh why accept it from the Chinese ruling classes?

You shouldn't and you know it.

Please read Jim Jay's stuff, it is very good.

Louisefeminista said...

"If you wouldn't put up with such conduct from anotherState, be it the UK, USA, Germany or France, etc then why oh, oh why accept it from the Chinese ruling classes?"

Firstly, Modernity, I see you don't include the Israeli state in the above and in a similar lament, why oh, why, do you defend it...?

Secondly, the criticisms of China from Britain and the USA are not in good faith and it is laughable considering their own imperialist antics themselves (Charlie is spot-on there). The west is using self-determination of Tibet as a stick to beat the Chinese bureacracy.

It is perfectly acceptable to defend China against imperialism while at the same time criticise the Chinese bureaucracy.

Btw: Like Charlie, I think it was good that Anna was able to put forward her views and listeners could hear these arguments...and you were excellent as well Anna!

Andy Newman said...


You complain about other people irrelevantly bringing up feudalism, but then you yourself start your arguments with misrepresentations of what happened fifty years ago.

Let us be clear about this, the Chinese Peoples' Republic never invaded another country. Following the launch of the Chinese republic around 1910, the whole country became divided into warlord territories, and foreign enclaves, made worse by the Japanese invasion.

(by the way someone asked what a militant Buddhist power might be like, Imperial Japan would be an example, though I don't think Tibet is ever going to attack Peral harbour)

Both the KMT and the CCP fought wars of national unification, and "independent Tibet" had no different status to them than any other part of the now divided former territiry of the Middle Kingdom. And many of the Tibetan territories, for example Amdo and Kham, were never "independent" except as part of a warlord kingdom under Liu Wenhui that was mainly Han, and Tibetans actually fought as members of the KMT to unify Kham with the rest of China in the 1930s.

Yes Tibet is very poor, but it shares this fate with all of the inland Chinese provinces.

Jim jepps repeats a number of untruths about Tibet, there has been "no long term demographic manipulation by the Chinese state". How can Jim square this with the fact that Han chinese have a one child policy, and Tibetans can have three children? And that only 6% of the Autonomous region are Han?

Kham and Amdo do have a majority of Han and a minority of Tibetans - but they have always been areas of mixed population, and except for the warlord era of Liu Wenhui they have always been under direct rule by Beijing. The Free Tibet campaign play fast and lose with the truth by claiming that han Chinese living in Kham and Amdo - where they have always lived !!! - are part of a campign to exclude Tbetans, but exemption of Tibetans from the One Child policy disproves this completely.

Now, in terms of material cocnditions, there is a net inflow of capital into Tibet and this investment is a subsidy by the government as it is not profitable. What is more this is not a singling out of Tibet, but a common policy for all inland provinces, under the Western Development Policy. Real incomes of rural Tibetans farmers grew 13% in 2007, faster than the national Chinese average - and Tibetans comprise 75% of all government officials in the autonomus region.

You should rememebr that contested elections are now mandatory for all villages in the PRC, and there has been help from the EU is setting this up. The village committees have powers greater than a British borough council, and control such issues as roads, schools, and enforcement (or othereise) of the three child policy.

So Tibetans in rural areas already have considerable autonomy over their daily lives.

there is a problem of educational attainment of Tibetans, and this is reflected in their employment difficulties. Bt is this because Tibetans are discriminated against? Absolutely not, this is a common problem of all rural populations in the PRC, and there is a net subsidy of education in Tibet from Beijing. They are starting from a very low level, remember that there were no schools at all before communist rule. The huge problem of rural development is one that plagues the whole PRC, not just Tibet.

Finally, is it true as Jim Jepps claims that the CCP has eliminated all forms of non-violent protest by Tibetans? Clearly not, this is the type of hysterical panic about China that is part of the problem.

Jim Jay said...

Hello everyone,

"Finally, is it true as Jim Jepps claims that the CCP has eliminated all forms of non-violent protest by Tibetans? Clearly not, this is the type of hysterical panic about China that is part of the problem."

Nope - that was not the claim. The claim was (which I think is clear in the context of the piece this quote was taken from, although apologies if not), on this occassion, by suppressing peaceful protest they gave those who wished to continue to "celebrate" the anniversary of a previous uprising few options. They also pissed them off.

My argument is reasonably clear I think: With regard to these specific events the violence was a direct reaction to the violence of the repression the protesters faced. I believe that violence to be understandable, and more, supportable.

I'd like to see some burning tanks next please.

I've not made any claims about the normal or usual ability of people in China and Tibet to protest in a peaceful fashion. Partly because I don't know the ins and outs and partly because rejecting hysterical hyperbole is good for the soul, as is refusing to defend imperialism, no matter what pattern adorns its flag.

Andy Newman said...

Jim: I'd like to see some burning tanks next please.

I suggest that stoking up the tension from outside China is a big problem. I think you need to look at the relative strenths of the two sides before advocating violence.

Andy Newman said...


The information about Chinese policy is readliy backed up by independent sources, if you see my latest article on the SU blog you will see it is based upon independent academic research, and Mark Leonanrd's book describes a Han rural area with similar problems.

In fact the problem of rural poverty in most of China is a very well reported in the mainstream press, as well as academic books about China, from independent researcers.

I never refer to official Chinese sources, except for the official populatioon census, which is also quoted as an authorative document by the Dalai lama.

the one-child policy is not applied as a question of policy for all national minorities in China, it is discussed in terms of how it is implemented in the Academic reserach paper I quote, which was based on a field study on the ground.

The Chinese state could easily enforce the one child policy if it wished, after all it does in the rest of China, but it chooses not to for ethnic minorities. That simply is the law in China.

chjh does not really answer the question about language, bearing in mind he is the SWP's china expert it is a bit surprising hat he doesn't recognise that there are less than 800 million Mandarin speakers in a population of 1.3 billion, just over half.

Mandarin is essential for well paid technical or managerial jobs in the same way that English is now indispensible in most of Europe. Lack of knoweldge of mandarain and general lack of work skills for a modern economy is a problem for hundreds of millions of Chinese, not just the Tibetan rural poor. This is a problem for all developing economies, that technical skills are based upon access to the world languages.

Andy Newman said...


Sorry if Ii misrepresented you, I was taking Modernitys interpretation of what you said as good coin.

Andy Newman said...

Modernity, I am not going to indulge you with one of your stupid circular arguments about sources of information.

In the lastest article I posted I have given links to independent academic reserach, I suggest you refernece the Tibet Research Centre at Case western University in Ohio.

The Chinese census is regarded as acurate by the "Tibet government in exile", so I don't see why I should dispute it.

If you have proof that I am wrong, then you produce your sources. The 6% Han populaton in the TAR is generally accepted.

By the Way, from the US Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 8, 2006. Washington DC.

Tibetans made up 94 percent of the population of the TAR. Government-sponsored development and new economic opportunities attracted migrant workers from China's large transient population to Tibetan areas. The result was a net increase in the non-Tibetan share of the TAR population from approximately 4 percent in 1990 to 6 percent in 2000. However, TAR census figures did not include a large number of long-term Han residents, such as cadres, skilled workers, unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their dependents.

In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, Tibetans increased their majority share as natural population growth outpaced net migration by non-Tibetans. Migrants to the TAR were overwhelmingly concentrated in cities and towns, while Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of the rural population. One official estimate put the number of Han residents in Lhasa at 100 thousand out of a total population of approximately 409,500, although many observers estimated that more than half of Lhasa's population was Han Chinese. Small businesses run by Han and Hui migrants--mostly restaurants and retail shops--predominated in cities throughout the Tibetan areas.

Family planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of other minority groups to have more children than Han. Urban Tibetans, including Communist Party members, and some ethnic Han Chinese living in Tibetan areas were generally permitted to have two children. Rural Tibetans were encouraged, but not required, to limit births to three children.

The TAR is one of China's poorest regions, and Tibetans are one of the poorest groups; malnutrition among Tibetan children continued to be widespread in many areas of the TAR.

In August state media reported that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of all government employees in the TAR. However, Han Chinese continued to hold key positions, including party secretary of the TAR.

But of course Modernity, you know better than the US government.

ModernityBlog said...

Newman wrote:

The Chinese census is regarded as acurate by the "Tibet government in exile", so I don't see why I should dispute it.

where do they do that? A link please

how then do you and other, pro China's ruling class partisans, square this 6% figure with an assertion by exiled Tibetans that millions of settlers have moved into Tibet?

they both can't be right, can they?

Socialists have traditionally been sceptical of government figures, particularly when they relate to oppress minorities, such as the Tibetans, and the natural governmental desire to paint the nicest picture, which is what the Chinese elite do with Tibet.

You might not have noticed, but your own quote (without a link) contradicted the 6% figure, ie:

"However, TAR census figures did not include a large number of long-term Han residents, such as cadres, skilled workers, unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their dependents."

So the settler community is considerably larger than 6%, by your own sources and in Lhasa the figures suggest that one in five is a settler, again by your own figures.


And possibly, deliberately, you left out the key passage, which deals with language and discrimination, again a topic which you might do well to address:

"Some Tibetans reported that they experienced discrimination in employment and claimed Han Chinese were hired preferentially for many jobs and received greater pay for the same work. In recent years some Tibetans reported that it was more difficult for Tibetans than Han to get permits and loans to open businesses. The use of the Chinese language was widespread in urban areas, and many businesses limited employment opportunities for Tibetans who did not speak Chinese."

Now I have to say I don't quote from the exiles because I'm not too sure of their figures neither am I happy with the Chinese state propaganda, and I hope that others would adopt that sceptical attitude.

But leaving aside the figures, for the moment, the issue of power is key.

Who runs what? Who is in control?

Answer: the Party secretary and his lackeys

That's the political question that you have to answer, it won't go away.

Andy Newman said...


No-0ne is disputing that there are very real difficulties for Tibetans, the question that you haven't addressed is that more than 700 million Han Chinese also don't speak mandarin, and those from rural areas have the same educational disadvantages, and problems with being locked out of jobs by lack of mandarin.

This is an issue that needs to be adressed, the TAR since 1984 has the constitutional power to bring in positive discrimination in jobs for Tibetans, they should implement it.

The problem with your argument comes when you present the difficulties of Tibetans as being unique and evidence of discrimination. Yes, the CCP runs Tibet undemocratacly, it runs all of China in the same way. There is a reatively large Tibetan membership of the CCP.

As far as i can see, the figure of 6% Han in Tibet is entirely plausible given that we know around 90% of the Tibetan population is rural, and almost no Han or Hui live in Tibet outside of the urban areas.

You are correct that the 6% doesn't include the suspected 300000 PLA who are in Tibet, but they do not compete in the local economy, nor generally intract with the local population (Tibet is BIG)

The mention of millions of han moving into Tibet by exiles are clearly untrue if they are referring to the TAR. It they are referring to the areas of Kham and Abro, then the US state department confirms that the Tibetan population of these areas is growing faster than the non-Tibetan population; these areas have always been mixed Tibetan and Han, and have never been independent. if you read the ethnographic research I link to from SU blog, you will see that the American academics observe that even taking into account inward han migration, the Tibetan population in the TAR is growing faster than the non -Tibetan.

The question is this. You promote Tibetan independence in very forceful language, even though being linked with such independence rhetoric is verymuch against the interests of Tibetans in China, which is why the Dalai lama argues for no more than Special Autonomous Region status.

The way the western Free Tibeters argue makes Beijing more intransigent, and also build a barrier between nTibetans and the millions of porr han Chinese who shoudl be their common allies against common problems.

But hey, if you get to sound off all self-righteous, then i suppose it is worth a price paid in tibetan cracked skulls for you, isn't it.

ModernityBlog said...

Newman wrote:

The problem with your argument comes when you present the difficulties of Tibetans as being unique and evidence of discrimination.Yes, the CCP runs Tibet undemocratacly, it runs all of China in the same way. "

Again another slippery argument. Simply because it is shit in other parts of China does not negate the experience of the Tibetans, indeed that's a bit like saying to the Irish in the 19th C, "it is terrible in England as well" (implying their grievances are no worse or no better than anyone else).

In fact, this lazy type of claim has been used before to suppress radicalism, where British workers were told "you should be grateful, don't strike, don't complain, life is a lot worse in Africa, Latin America, etc"

"There is a reatively large Tibetan membership of the CCP.

so fucking what?

what is the significance of this, to you? would you try arguing without implying things and openly state your case?

It could be that there is a relatively large Tibetan membership of the CCP, for various reasons, not simply because they think the Chinese ruling class are a wonderful group of individuals, as you seem to imply?

Hmm, let's think, based on authoritarian previous regimes, why minds they join the CCP:

1. To get ahead in life
2. to get a job
3. to get an education
4. to avoid destitution and poor opportunities, etc

so there are any number of reasons, but to suppose that a relatively large Tibetan membership of the CCP is somehow indicative of a political Shangri-La in Tibet is just plain silly.

You wrote:

he TAR since 1984 has the constitutional power to bring in positive discrimination in jobs for Tibetans, they should implement it.

That's 26 years, not 6 years or 16, but 26 years without being implemented, and you can't imagine that would piss off Tibetans? who knows will it be implemented in another 26 years?

See that's the problem, lots of things on paper but the material existence of the Tibetans is still poor, and you can't see the difference.

"As far as i can see, the figure of 6% Han in Tibet is entirely plausible given that we know around 90% of the Tibetan population is rural,"

can't you count? even taking some official figures (as a general guide) they show the obvious inaccuracy of that 6%, with your own comments on the size of the PLA.

According to the UN, the population is approximately 2.62 million (the 2000 population census), 6% would be 157,200 settlers. But including 300,000+ of People's liberation Army on top and the figure is closer to 17%, that excluding others that we don't know of, which could amount to tens of thousands. That's three times the original amount.


So no, the 6% figure is clearly contrived to give an impression of a lower settler figure.

You wrote:

The question is this. You promote Tibetan independence in very forceful language, "

Will you ever take the trouble to read what I write? Or must you be so lazy as to assume everything?

I have never argued for independence, and it's not for me to tell Tibetans what to do after 50 years under the Chinese ruling classes' boot. I think ***devolution*** is a much better first step.

Got that? Devolution, not necessarily independence.

Do yourself a favour, try to represent other people's views with a degree of accuracy.

You'll notice I make a point of working through each of your arguments, whereas you after many years in and around the shifty SWP pick and choose which points to raise, and as an Oxbridge man you should know which is more intellectually satisfactory, and more honest :)

But again you avoid the question of Party rule in Tibet.

Alijah said...

Modernityblog. Your vehement defence of Tibetan separatism suggests that you must be some Judaeo-Fascist neo-con apologist, bent upon "liberating" China the same way the US/UK "liberated" Iraq. Won't work mate. Your crocodile tears for Tibet just betrays your Sinophobia.